The Institute of Supply Management (ISM) has now released the March Non-Manufacturing Purchasing Managers' Index (PMI), also known as the ISM Services PMI. The headline Composite Index is at 58.8 percent, down 0.7 from 59.5 last month. Today's number came in below the Investing.com forecast of 59.0 percent.

Here is the report summary:

"The NMI® registered 58.8 percent, which is 0.7 percentage point lower than the February reading of 59.5 percent. This represents continued growth in the non-manufacturing sector at a slightly slower rate. The Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index decreased to 60.6 percent, 2.2 percentage points lower than the February reading of 62.8 percent, reflecting growth for the 104th consecutive month, at a slower rate in March. The New Orders Index registered 59.5 percent, 5.3 percentage points lower than the reading of 64.8 percent in February. The Employment Index increased 1.6 percentage points in March to 56.6 percent from the February reading of 55 percent. The Prices Index increased by 0.5 percentage point from the February reading of 61 percent to 61.5 percent, indicating that prices increased in March for the 25th consecutive month. According to the NMI®, 15 non-manufacturing industries reported growth. Despite the slight dip in the NMI® composite index, the non-manufacturing sector enjoyed another month of strong growth in March. The cooling off of the New Orders Index possibly prevented an even stronger reading for the NMI® composite index. The majority of respondents remain positive about business conditions." [Source]

Unlike its much older kin, the ISM Manufacturing Series, there is relatively little history for ISM's Non-Manufacturing data, especially for the headline Composite Index, which dates from 2008. The chart below shows Non-Manufacturing Composite. We have only a single recession to gauge is behavior as a business cycle indicator.

The more interesting and useful subcomponent is the Non-Manufacturing Business Activity Index. The latest data point at 60.6 percent is down 2.2 from a seasonally adjusted 62.8 the previous month.

ISM Non-Manufacturing

For a diffusion index, this can be an extremely volatile indicator, hence the addition of a six-month moving average to help us visualize the short-term trends.

Theoretically, this indicator should become more useful as the time frame of its coverage expands. Manufacturing may be a more sensitive barometer than Non-Manufacturing activity, but we are increasingly a services-oriented economy, which explains our intention to keep this series on the radar.

Here is a table showing the trend in the underlying components.

Here is a link to our coverage of the latest ISM Manufacturing report.


We will publish our next ISM Non-Manufacturing report on May 3.

Read more updates by Jill Mislinksi